Remembering Stan Musialby Senator Roy Blunt
Posted on 2013-01-23
BLUNT. Madam President, first of all, this is the first time I
have spoken on the floor when you were in the chair. Welcome to the
Senate and welcome to the presiding chair.
I want to talk for a few minutes today about a baseball great, a Missouri great, Stan Musial, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 92. Stan Musial was born in November 1920 in Denora, PA. His title was Stan ``The Man.'' He was the youngest of six children. When he wasn't called Stan ``The Man,'' he was just a guy who worked at a company as a young man, whose dad was a Polish immigrant, whose mother was of Czechoslovakian ancestry, and whose dreams were probably not to become a professional baseball player but who was, indeed, a great athlete from the very start.
In his remarks, when he presented Stan Musial the Medal of Freedom in 2011, President Obama said the following: Stan matched his hustle with humility. He retired with 17 records--even as he missed a season in his prime to serve his country in [[Page S198]] the Navy. He was the first player to make--get this-- $100,000. Even more shocking, he asked for a pay cut when he didn't perform up to his own expectations.
I don't think that August Busch gave him the pay cut--again, a quote--but I have read the story where Stan Musial was holding out for a pay package somewhere in the mid-90s and August Busch, Jr., who not long before that had bought the Cardinals, called him into the office and said: I'm never going to pay you 90--whatever thousand dollars he was asking for. He said: I'm going to pay you $100,000, and you are going to be the first baseball player to make $100,000.
Stan Musial played for the Cardinals from 1941 to 1963, the only Major League team he played for. He entered the majors in 1941 as the fifth youngest player. He ended his career in 1963 as the third oldest player. He had a record of 24 times being named to the Major League Baseball All-Star team. He won seven National League batting titles, three National League Most Valuable Player awards, and he led the Cardinals to three World Series championships in the 1940s.
Stan Musial--No. 6--had a batting average of at least .300 in every 1 of his 17 seasons--a .300 hitter for every 1 of his 17 seasons. His lifetime batting average was .331. He batted .330 in the year before he decided to retire. He had 3,630 career hits, hitting 1,815 hits in St. Louis at Sportsman Park and Busch Stadium, and he hit another 1,815 on the road. He played as well at home as he did away from home. He missed the entire 1945 season while he was serving in the Navy.
It was a fan at Ebbet's Field--with the Dodgers playing at Ebbet's Field--who groaned as he came to the plate one time in a game--he was always particularly good against the Dodgers. The fan said: Here comes the man. And from that point on, his nickname was Stan ``The Man.'' I had a chance to sit by Tommy Lasorda at a luncheon a few years ago after I had read a biography of Stan Musial. Tommy was sort of the longtime Dodgers manager who was a player when Stan Musial was playing, and he said he thought Stan Musial was the best ballplayer he ever saw play, and he was death on the Dodgers. The Dodgers fans liked him, but it was a real rivalry.
Stan was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame the first year he was eligible, in 1969, and he would be one of the great ambassadors to baseball for the rest of his life. When he retired in 1963, Commissioner Ford Frick said: Here stands baseball's perfect warrior. Here stands baseball's perfect knight.
Stan Musial became an American icon throughout ballparks and over the radio in the 1940s and 1950s. KMOX, in the 1960s, had a booming signal that went almost all the way to the west coast and covered a lot of the South, and the St. Louis Cardinals were the furthest south of any baseball team and the furthest west of any baseball team. Because of that, Stan Musial played on a club that, in many ways, became America's team at that time.
I can remember growing up in southwest Missouri on a dairy farm, and particularly late at night when we were hauling hay--and I can remember this when I was 10 or 12 years old--and whoever was in the truck must have been almost deaf because the driver would have the radio turned as loud as you could turn the radio up, and the St. Louis Cardinals game would be coming out of both windows as we were out there working in the fields or, if we weren't working in the field, we would be sitting on the porch somewhere listening to the Cardinals play, and there was no greater Cardinal than Stan Musial.
Bob Gibson, another great Cardinal and Stan's teammate and fellow Hall of Famer, said: Stan Musial is the nicest man I ever met in baseball.
And Bob Gibson went on to say he didn't particularly associate nice with baseball, but he associated nice with Stan Musial.
Bob Costas had this to say about Stan Musial: Stan Musial didn't hit in 56 straight games. He didn't hit .400 for a season. He didn't get 4,000 hits. He didn't get 500 home runs. He didn't hit a home run in his last at bat, just a single. He didn't marry Marilyn Monroe; he married his high school sweetheart. His excellence was a quiet excellence.
ESPN titled Musial the most underrated athlete ever. Only Hank Aaron--thinking about the things Stan Musial didn't do--had more runs than Stan Musial and extra base hits. Only Tris Speaker and Pete Rose had more hits. And only Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds created more runs. But Stan Musial was at the highest levels in all of those areas.
Writing in the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week, Bernie Miklasz wrote: Let's celebrate Musial's extraordinary life and be thankful for his enduring presence through the decades. Let's keep it simple in honor of this remarkably uncomplicated man. There has never been a more perfect union, a better relationship between an athlete and a town, than Stan Musial and St. Louis. From the time Stan took his first at-bat as a Cardinal, until his death Saturday at his home in Ladue, he was part of the community's soul for 71 years, 4 months, and 2 days.
Many stories about Stan Musial have been told, but I want to mention three that Bernie mentioned in that same article. He talked about when Musial was first inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame--as I said earlier, as soon as you could possibly be inducted. It was an overcast day in Cooperstown. The crowd was quiet, subdued, and a little bit put off by the day. Moments before Musial's official ceremony, the clouds got out of the way and the sunshine emerged, and Dizzy Dean's widow said: ``Stan brought the sun. He always does.'' In the 1960s, a second story emerged of Musial and other Major League stars visiting U.S. troops in Vietnam, and they went to the military hospitals to console the wounded soldiers. One seriously injured soldier looked up at Musial from his hospital bed and said: ``You're the best.'' And Musial's response was: ``No, you are.'' Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Joe Black, an African American, told a story about being racially taunted by players in the St. Louis dugout during a game. Musial, who was batting at the time, and facing Joe Black, stepped out and angrily kicked the dirt to display his disapproval of his own teammates. He waited after the game to tell Black: I'm sorry that happened. But don't you worry about it. You're a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.
Black said Musial's support helped him gain the confidence he needed to become a top pitcher.
The fourth and last story Bernie told was of legendary center fielder Willie Mays, who frequently talked about Musial befriending African- American players, relating that at an All-Star game black players were being ignored by the other players. Mays said: We were in the back of the clubhouse playing poker and none of the white guys had come back or said, ``Hi'' or ``How's it going?'' or ``How you guys doing?'' or ``Welcome to the All Star Game.'' Nothing. We're playing poker and all of a sudden I look up and here comes Stan towards us. He grabs a chair, sits down and starts playing cards with us. And Stan didn't know how to play poker! But that was his way of welcoming us, of making us feel a part of it. I never forgot that. We never forgot that.
Musial didn't make a lot of fiery speeches. He didn't ``lead'' a movement or try to promote himself as an angelic humanitarian. He just did good things.
There is one last story, a love story, between Stan and his wife Lil. This may be the best Musial statistic of all. They were married for 71 years, 4 months, and 2 days until Lil's death on May 3, with Stan following her in January.
I listened to KMOX from the hay truck I talked about earlier, like lots of other Cardinals and Musial fans, but I remember the first time I saw Stan Musial play at Sportsman Park. I remember the first time, 30 years later, I actually met him, when I was the Secretary of State in Missouri. Getting to meet Stan Musial was about as good as it got even then. I remember hearing him play ``Take Me Out to the Ball Game'' on his harmonica.
Baseball was lucky to have him, Missouri was lucky to have him, and the Cardinals and St. Louis were lucky to have him, and I am pleased to be here today to say how much we appreciate Stan Musial.
I am also pleased to be joined by my colleague from Missouri, Senator McCaskill.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Missouri.